Saturday, April 30, 2011

Pool is Open

Pool opening day has been a success. The pool is open and in a week or so I will be ready for some serious swimming.

Saturday--Pool Opening Day 2011

It is pool opening Saturday--something I forecast back in January, but almost decided to delay a week or two into May.

The weather is scheduled to be awesome.

The pump is already assembled and ops checked.

The water is clear and the desire is there.

Are you ready for some clear, cold water?

I certainly am. But unless the cover gets off the pool it is not going to get any warmer.

The opening of the pool ushers in the summertime season for all of us. It provides a true escape from the hastle of everyday life and I know the thought of falling into the pool after an especially log day at work often is the driving force for getting me successfully through the day.

Asleep on a floatie, a beer in my hand, baking in the afternoon sun.

Can it possibly get better than that?

BTW--today is the last day of April 2011. The year is 120 days old already. Where did it go?

Friday, April 29, 2011


The past few days have seen some terrible weather across the eastern half of the United States.

I work with people who are keeping tabs on loved ones and friends in the south--specifically Alabama; and I also found out that a rare tornado hit in my hometown in upstate NY destroying the house of a family friend.

These are the times when the best of people come out.

The sense of community and caring for those who suffer loss.

I watched the news the other night from Missouri where the flooding is occurring--and thought of my sister who lives there--wondering how the flooding was affecting her.

The news is bad.

Wednesday evening we watched the news as it was tracking possible tornado laden storms across our area--within miles of Nicole and Mike's house.

We prayed then. We pray now.

And we offer assistance to those who are hardest hit by the severe weather.

Weather is one of those things that transcends life and places in perspective our daily work--it can all be changed in so short a time.

So help those who are afflicted by the severe weather--be it wind or flood or earthquake or tsunami.

Be a commmunity united to help .

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Birthers Fuss and Lose

President Obama released his birth certificate yesterday.

He was trying to hope the fuss would draw down and that no one would be unduly embarassed. But the fanatics wouldn't back down even in view of all of the evidence against their position.

They should have.

I like this quote for why he released the copy of the birth certificate:

"The president believed the distraction over his birth certificate wasn't good for the country," Pfeiffer said. "It may have been good politics and good (television), but it was bad for the American people and distracting from the many challenges we face as a country," according to CNN.

It was an issue with no possible happuy ending--except if the challengers has politely withdrawn before having the hard evidence used against them like a sludge hammer.

But alas--people will believe almost anything if they want it to be true.

I'm told some people believe the world is flat--because they clearly cannot see the curve on the horizon.

And the moon is made of green cheese, too.

And donkey's fly.

And Donald Trump has a chance of being president after making the following assertion: "Donald Trump recently seized on the issue, saying he had doubts about Obama's background." again according to CNN.

What a great way to invite the opponent in for a meal--

said the spider to the fly!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Standing in Line to Check Out

Pet peeve!

Everyday I go to the cafeteria for lunch. I am fortunate to have a very well stocked cafeteria so close to where I work and that it provides generally high quality food at a reasonable price.

Here's the rub: people who are at the cashier and it seems the first time they even think about paying for their food is when the cashier tells them how much.

And then--it dawns on them:

They need to get into their purse or wallet and find money--sorting through or over all kinds of obstacles while the line behind them right at the busiest lunch hour time grows longer.

And if fumbling around in their purse for their wallet isn't enough--then they decide they want to pay with exact change and start rummaging through the change purse for the elusive dime that isn't there.

And my lunch is getting cold.

And my frustration level is rising because I have my money in my hand ready for the cashier so a not to inconvenience the people behind me and subject them to my incompetence at finding money in my belongings.

Finally, after what seems like an eternity of watching the tragedy unfold in front of me, the transaction seems complete; except, now all of the belongings and purses need to be put away and heaven forbid if there was change involved--that too must be carefully put away at a pace likening the speed at which glaciers covered the land.

And my hot chili is now becoming so cold that I wonder if I should microwave it--but that would require getting out of line again.

So I step to the counter and hand my $5 bill at the cashier and smile pleasantly because I know it is not his or her fault that some people don't think about things in advance.

I say "Have a great day!" and I mean it because I'm sure they are as frustrated as I am at the scene which they witness countless times per day.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Losers Whine and Winners Win

Ugh! I hate it.

I suffered through an 11 inning game of baseball on Sunday afternoon (Easter Sunday) sandwiched around dinner, Easter Egg Hunts, and grand children only to see the O's come from behind to tie the game and then be robbed of the winning run in the bottom of the ninth--followed by a total defensive collapse to lose in the 11th.

And so I'm doing the loser whine.

I hate the thought of replay in baseball, but I have to think that it would help teams who have to play the Yankees and Red Sox get better calls on critical, game-turning plays.

In my mind, and that of many sports writers, Andino should have been ruled safe at the plate and the O's credited with a win over the Yankees.

But--it was not so.

Like A-rod's homerun last year to win a game after he had clearly struck out looking, teams like the Yankees get the breaks.

I have to assume noble intent on the part of the umpires--but how many more times time do I have to see obvious bad calls go against the Orioles before I can send a letter off to the commissioner of baseball with even a glimmer of hope that it would reach his desk.

It is bad enough that the payroll of the Yankees is over twice that of the O's--but to get seemingly all of the close calls as well? Come on. The Yankees don't need help to win--yet they seem to get it consistently.

Maybe there is a place for instant replay in baseball on more than just home runs. If only to ensure the playing field is truly "level" so to speak.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday Musings - April 25, 2011

1. Going back to work after a week away is hard. It gets harder every year it seems as I truly begin to evaluate the point at which I will no longer have to work at a job everyday to enjoy the life I desire.

2. The rain and gloom of stormy days makes the days of blue skies and sun more enjoyable.

3. Kids are fun to enjoy at Easter.

4. Easter Eggs Hunts can be very competitive.

5. Where did you go over Spring Break? I spent a week in exotic Elkridge. It sure isn't Napa.

Happy Easter 2011
6. I've heard about sta-cations--where people vacation at home. I think I've just completed a wor-sta-cation where I worked my tail off staying at home for a week!

7. Riordan has been back from his walk-about for over a week now--and we are still paranoid about his disappearances around the house. The other day we could not find him in his usual spots and nearly called 9-1-1. We did find him sleeping peacefully under the covers--yes under the covers, on one of the guest beds.

8. Chaos. That's what happens when a freak thunderstorm pops up in the middle of an Easter Egg Hunt. I know there are still some eggs out there waiting to be found.

9. I'm reading a new book which theorizes that the Last Supper actually occurred on Wednesday rather than the more traditionally held Thursday of Holy Week. I know that some time ago, when I looked at the the gospels in detail that I felt much the same--there was too much stuff happening between sundown Thursday and 9 AM Friday for it all to work. The book is titled: The Mystery of the Last Supper and it is written by Colin J. Humphreys.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter 2011

Easter Lily in front of the Fireplace
It is here.

He is Risen.

Tell everyone.

Don't let the moment slip away--it hasn't happened before nor since.

It is truly special--and upon this one event, everything hinges.

Some say that Christianity is too rigid--because we believe that it is our way or the highway.

Show me a belief system that isn't.

Muslims kill infidels.At least Christians aren't doing that much anymore.

Hindus and Buddhists profess their way is the only way, too.

I think it is the inherent definition of a belief system/religion to be somewhat exclusive.

Ah, but I forget--we live in a country where first and foremost everyone believes that their way is right and that when confronted with the idea that they aren't right about something, they continue to believe they are right despite the evidence.

There is an advocate for everything--no matter how hokey.

I'm an advocate for the Risen Son.

Take that world!

Deny it all you wish--try to find a hole in the history--it hasn't happened yet.

It is not there.

Jesus rose from dead--by himself.

No one before, nor since has done that.

The God who came to us in Christmas is the God who redeemed us at Easter and desires a personal relationship with us every day. He wants a personal relationship with us so greatly, that he died for us.

Happy Easter. This is where the story didn't end--but where it began again.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Spring clean-up

I love heading off to the dump with stuff that no longer needs to be around the house.

Actually, I don't like to actually dump the stuff, but rather I prefer to recycle it all. Our dump is truly a recycling center and the over whelming majority of what I take there is recycled.

The other day, I was able to take a huge couple of truck loads of branches to the center to be recycled into mulch. I had my truck piled as high as I ever had it during those runs--but I was able to remove the stuff in two big loads.

I have also enjoyed using my chain saw--and although I now own five blades for it, I now know where to get them sharpened both conveniently and inexpensively. So I actually have three sharp blades and two dull ones right now--look out trees--you are gonna wish I wasn't armed and considered dangerous!

Actually, there is almost no harder tool to use than a dull chain saw.  Think about it.

Chris has been working her tail off too. I am very pleased with the amount of work we have accomplished so far--but with a house and yard--it seems there is always something more to do out there.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Watching the World Turn Green

I have been far more aware this year of the greening of the landscape.

I notice every day how the trees have gone from bare, to the reds of the leaf buds and now to the light greens of the newly growing leaves.

Mixed among the multitude of flowering trees, they provide a peaceful, yes, bucolic setting.

Chris reminds me every time I mention how green everything is getting, that I've said that before.

But it is true--I never really noticed the progression before, maybe it is just because I never really took the time to notice the progression of the season. It always seemed like one day it was bare winter-ravaged landscape, the next it was blooms, leaves, and spring.

This year, I am enjoying it more.

Watching the rebirth.

The colors which rival the autumn which everyone seems to appreciate so much.

I think the colors of renewal are far more exciting that the colorful robed trees that usher in the season of winter.

But, that's just me.

I'm enjoying it all--and the smells of the springtime too--the blooms on the breeze and the smell of freshly mowed grass.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Springtime Flowers in the Yard

Dogwood in the Back Yard 2011
I have been off this week enjoying the yard and the weather--which has been mostly tolerable.

The other day, even in the rain I was out putting down sod over the holes in the ground created when I removed the stumps. I wanted to get the grass down while it was still damp--because I believe it will take better that way.

  All along the way though, I have been enjoying the flowers in the year--my classic favorites the weeping cherry tree, the dogwood at the back of the yard, and my four bleeding heart bushes are absolutely magnificent right now.

Bleeding Heart in the Side Yard 2011
The flowers of springtime are especially beautiful to me as the days are still cool and the trees are not yet fully in leaf--these flowers and all of the flowering trees in this area provide a burst of color and life accompanying the spring rebirth.

I have already mowed--and the lawn needs another mowing this week. It is good that all of the plants are springing to life--and warming my heart as I pause--amid the hectic pace of my life, to notice them.

Weeping Cherry in Magnificent Bloom 2011

The weeping cherry is especially full and beautiful right now--a pink snowball of color right in the middle of my yard.

We are planning to plant a couple of trees to replace those we have lost during the past few years--a willow, a redbud, and potentially a dogwood are on the short list of trees to potentially grace our yard before the end of the week.

All good springtime trees--the willows are one of the first to green up and shake off the slumber of winter, while the dogwood and the redbud are both strong springtime performers. More color and more flowers for the yard.

Springtime should be even better next year.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Stumps No More

I love using equipment to rid myself of problems.

My most recent activity was removing 10 tree stumps from the yard using a stump grinder to turn them into mulch.

I have rented a stump grinder before--and it was an awesome experience turning tree stumps--those immovable objects in the yard that contact my mower deck and blades at those moments of inattention, into mulch and covering their hole with top soil and sod.

Instant gratification.  Green and gone.

The two largest stumps were the remnants of two dead tulip poplars I had felled two weeks ago--and so they will soon give way to green space. I still have to finish cutting and splitting them. Sadly, I learned my chain saw is too small to completely take care of one of them--so I will be looking to borrow or rent a larger chain saw.

The other 8 stumps were mostly remnants of juniper trees which suffered during the winters past--either being broken by the snow and ice, or disfigured as parts of other trees fell on them. Of course--there were a couple trees that Chris just wanted gone--like the apple tree that didn't produce edible fruit.

I had additional fun removing stumps for a couple of my friends as well--it is amazing how stumps seep to hang around in yards--a problem with no easy solution until we can finally rid ourselves of them. 

So in probably another five or so years, I will have to rent a stump grinder again--but for now, the mowing will be a whole lot easier and those low lying eyesores are gone!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


The orange ball hung in the sky--
like a basketball as it pauses above the rim
after bouncing off the iron;
above the horizon, coloring the clouds
gracing the early dawn sky
with glow that made them alive
a flight of geese, silhouetted
flew across its face
while I was driving to work.

I watched the geese fly
skirting the trees--
they joined another flock
to begin their day
as was I--
speeding down the pavement
in my classic Jag on a rare outing
on my way to work--
I could only take a snapshot
in my mind

I enjoy images like this as they happen
because they seem to happen less
or is it just
I notice them infrequently
I am lost in my own thoughts--
focused inward
I forget--
God's handiwork is better than
any painting in a gallery
fetching millions at auction.

I have be ready to see the scenes

Geese flying across the rising sun
they are still there
caught in my mind--
for me to replay
and be comforted and excited
about each sunrise--
every day.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday Musings - April 18, 2011

1. It is Holy Week--that period between Palm Sunday and Easter set aside to remember the sacrifices made for each of us.

2. Spring Break dawns with hope anew and thoughts of sleeping late.

3. Most heard phrase around the house: "Have you seen my . . . ?"

4. This date in history: 1775: The midnight ride of Paul Revere.

5. The Orioles have managed aseven game losing streak. Great--and after such a pomising beginning.

6. Heard in the lyrics of a song: "I'm really not a stubborn as I seem, said the knuckle to the concrete."

7. Today is stump grinder day!  The stumps that have been a problem in the yard are going to go away.

8. Passover begins tonight at sundown.

9. Ethan turned six this past week!  I have a six year old grandson! Am I old enough?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring Break 2011

Spring Break 2011 is upon me.

What are You Doing for Spring Break?

I am standing on the threshold of a week, which this year will not include a trip somewhere.

There is enough work to do around the house--I have visions of chippers and stump grinders and quality time with my chain saw.

If only the rain will hold up for a couple of days.

The smell of newly mown grass has energized me to be outside--doing stuff.

And there is a lot of stuff to do.

Although I have visions of being on a beach somewhere--reality says I will be in my backyard. It is like the line from the end of the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy reflects that she has learned: "if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with!"

So for this Spring Break--my heart's desire is to be in my own backyard doing manly man things with powerful equipment.

Oh yeah--keep the six pack on ice for me, will ya?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Middle Class Tax Day Blues

Monday is Federal Tax Day--It is later this year, the 18th.

Talk about your classic no win situation.

If you get a refund--the government is giving you your own money back--and making you feel good about giving them a no interest loan.

If you have to pay (like I did) you look at the bottom line of hte tax bill and wonder if rocks can truly bleed and why it seems that the rich skate, the poor get hand outs, and all I do is pay, pay, and pay some more.

But, I am a good American and I pay my taxes. I am not even really trying to reduce my tax bute by sheltering money--which is probably stupid since probably everyone else is sheltering their money. And so, my bank account was debited yesterday for both my federal and state taxes owed!  I decided not to wait until the 18th.

When I spied my bottom line--not the tax due, but the total amount of taxes owed before subtracting withholdings--I was shocked!  I think some third world nations have GNPs less than my tax bill.

I know my total tax bite--(and I just realized that I forgot to add in my state tax bite) would be a good starting salary for some people.  Maybe I could just buy a teacher and not pay taxes? At least that way I would be able to know what my tax dollars are being used for.

At some point I'm worried that I won't be able to work because I can't afford the taxes. And I know I will never be rich enough to be at the point where I can avoid taxes altogether.

I despise tax season.

I fret about it from New Years Day until the returns are done and filed.  There is no joy in being confronted with the hard realities of being a middle class American in today's "turn the screws tighter on the consumer and tax payer" approach to government. 

Ugh! The frustration for 2011 is over at least. The payments are gone. I can wipe it from my mind until this time next year!

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Prince Returns

Riordan, the prince of the house has returned. He is sleeping with Chris this evening as he recovers from his walk about.

Totally relaxed for the first time in days.

There is no doubt about who is the prince of the palace.

But, most importantly--he has come home.

Sunshine in the Morning but an Overcast Heart and a Miracle on Top!

Riordan at Christmas

Yesterday as I was driving to work, the sun was rising and shining into my eyes for the first time in a long time.  Yeah, I was running a little bit late--but with the clear sky and the golden-orange rising sun, I realized that while I should be rejoicing that the gray, rainy overcast skies of the past few days were gone, I was still pretty gloomy and down in my heart.

Riordan is still missing and presumed lost for good.

Despite massive nightly searches in the neighborhood and surrounding area, coupled with enticements of fresh (canned) warm tuna on the door step, he has not been convincingly sighted since his mysterious disappearance while we were away at Great Wolf Lodge over the weekend.

The hole in my heart and Chris's heart is huge--the sense of loss and wrestling with the unknown--is he alive? Is he scared and cowering somewhere too afraid to move? Is he dead?

It really brings new meaning to the story Jesus told about the shepherd searching for one lost sheep. (Luke 15:4-6). We have searched every night, every time we go through the neighborhood we look for the tell tale signs that he is about, every chance we get.

I feel like a total idiot standing in the yard and walking on the street calling  for the lost cat--but I do it.
I'm hoping for a happy ending--like Lassie Come Home, or The Adventures of Yellow Dog.  But, I am beginning to lose hope and believe we should try to move on and accpet life without him. It is hard though, because even Louie, our other cat, seems to notice the loss.

I know I will always looking into the woods around our house and wonder if he is out there somewhere--until there is some closure.

But about Riordan--I don't want to eulogize him yet--but he was THE CAT of cats. If you take every cat I have ever had--and took their good qualities and rolled them into one cat--it would be Riordan.

I remember cats of old like Daisy, and Ghengis Kahn, and George, and Squishy, and Sylvester, and a more recent cat of huge fame--Hans. Riordan, although only with us since September, will always be held in the same regard as the great cats--and one that I was proud to have known and enjoyed.

And so, this morning, day six of his disappearance, my hope is that if Riordan is still able, that he will find his way back to us. And if he is unable, that he is at peace. And that whatever happens--Chris and I can find peace, too.


But you know what? As I finished writing this--guess who came meowing at the door--just like in the movies as all hope was lost. I remember Yellow Dog running over the fields--just at the same time as the good-byes were being said.

Riordan has returned. Back from where ever and just a little bit worse for the wear, but in seemingly good health with no major battle scars. He is a bit freaked out, but had no trouble wandering straight back into the house, our lives, and our hearts. He touched noses with Makayla on his way through the door and Louie was clearly happy to see his best bud return.

Miracles do happen.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Swingset in the Yard -- Really?

Daily, it seems, I learn new requirements about being a grandparent.

The Swing Set--Mowing Obstacle

First it was the return of a crib and kiddie toys in the house. A nursery, so to speak.

Now we cruise yard sales looking for older kid toys--after all, E was six yesterday. I really wanted the gift we got for him (I may secretly go back and buy another one for myself even though technically, I already have one).

This past weekend though--it was the coup de gras, a swing set returned to the yard!

Aside from the comedy that was going to pick it up, disassembling it, and reassembling it on a cold day--I cannot believe I have another obstacle to mow around in the yard.

Granted--it is use and it was inexpensive--but now it is mine.

I am sure the grandsons will love it--for a while, but given the volume of mosquitoes in the yard, I'm not sure whether the use will justify the annoyance of having to mow around it.

Of course, it still requires to be power washed and stained and sealed, because it is well loved.

But the kids will have someplace to play when they are not in the pool. 

When is that, exactly?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

On the Way Home from Great Wolf Lodge

The car ride seemed to go on forever--even for a seasoned traveler like myself.

On the Ride Home from Great Wolf Lodge
I confess--I snuck a few winks as I grew tired of checking out the license plates of the cars in front of me.

There was one point when everyone realized that swimming in the morning at the lodge, shopping at Williamsburg Pottery, and then spending untold hours at an Outlet Mall had taken its toll on the littlest member of the party--Jax had nodded off and his earphones, for the movie he was watching, had slipped down over his eyes.

Well, it had all taken its toll on me as well.

I almost felt like Gilligan's Island--a three-hour drive became a seven-hour ordeal.  We left the Lodge at noon and did not arrive home until after 7:30 pm.

The kids were troopers!

Me? Not so much.

I don't need any more practice with long car trips. I have taken enough that I feel like I don't need the practice any longer.

Although--since we did not take I-95, the most obvious interstate, but rather cruised US 301, the route was pretty with the colors of springtime and pleasant due to the relative lack of traffic. I was fun to spy the forgotten buildings of the era before I-95 dotting the landscape and repurposed into other uses.

The drive was overall enjoyable--just long!  But a fitting ending for an all too short weekend.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Monday Musings - Tuesday April 12, 2011

1. Yeah it is Tuesday--but I was still thinking about it.

2. A weekend away from the grind with the grandsons at a water park--is that the definition of relaxing?

3. Budget crisis averted--for the moment, but the inability of our Congress to lead and work together is going to continue to create problems is all areas for which they are responsible.

4. We returned home after the overnight, and Riordan, the cat, is missing. Some would like to take the blame for this unfortunate situation, but unfortunate things just happen sometimes--and the cat had been attempting to become an escape artist for some time.

5. Traveling, we took a scenic and historic route to Williamsburg, VA passing some interesting spots such as where John Wilkes Booth dies, and where Presidents Washington and Madison were born. This area is so full of history, it seems you stumble over something historic every time we go out.

6. Here's something interesting from history--the Civil War began 150 years ago today.  And it is still being fought in some places!

7. The trees have begun to take on that light green color and are changing over from the reds of the new buds. The blooming trees look like white puff balls in the fields. Springtime is truly upon us.

8. Weather changes make this time of year interesting. We slept with the windows open last night for the first time this year.

9. And did you notice the Orioles? Over one week into the season and still in sole possession of first place in the American League East!

Monday, April 11, 2011

From the Lodge of the Great Wolf

I have been spending the past day at Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg with the grandsons.

Admittedly, it is an experience for the kids--bit there is one adult attraction: the Tornado which is really cool.

And indoor water park. What a concept. Except the temperature today is supposed to be in the 80's.

Perhaps I should be outside.

-- Bob Doan, Williamsburg, VA

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday and Weather

Longing for the 80's promised for tomorrow, I am sitting here looking at the ever greener trees outside the window.

I went to the O's doubleheader last light and witnessed two very different games with the O's winning the first game 5-0 but getting shot down during the second 13-1.

Pitching was the difference.

But it was cool in the low 50's for the game. We got a bit cold sitting there.

And so we are looking forward seeing that bright orb in the sky at some point today if the heavy clouds that have been oppressing us begin to clear as promised.

It could happen.

The grass is at least green and will need its first mowing by the weekend.

That at least is something to look forward to.

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Felled Trees and the Smell of Earthworms

I know--it is kinda weird, but what else do you call that smell after the Spring rains fall on the now very green grass--which I probably should think about mowing.

It is the "smell" of the earth after the rain--the sweet smell that caresses the land and reminds me of earthworms.

As we were digging in the gardens last week, I was pleased to see that we have a lot of worms grinding up the inorganic matter into fertile nutrients for our plants.

The other day I finally had three dead, but very tall trees felled. They will, by the end of the year, be cut, split, and stacked for firewood. They were just a bit too tall for me to want to deal with--and I wanted them to fall in a certain way so I paid to have them dropped--the guy who did the job for me put them right where I wanted them.

They are wet now, though, after the soaking rains of the past days.

But it is a couple year's worth of wood lying on the ground ready for processing with my chain saw.  And I will get to rent a splitter again, too.

I am beginning to see a lot of new green leaves out my window and the weeping cherry is about to burst forth in bloom as well.  It is the time of year, here, when the flowering trees are putting on a show which rivals the autumn leaves.

Friday, April 8, 2011

"We the People" have Lost

As I wake this morning, I am saddened by the situation in our country.

There is a very real likelihood that we American will wake up tomorrow morning as the laughing stocks of the free world. A country without a budget and without a functioning government hobbled by a shut down. The New York Times article of this morning explains some of the consequences pretty well.

I am sure there are some who will likely be cheering-- but if you think the situation is bad now--a shut down will only exacerbate every bad thing that happens.

Congress has tasks specifically called out in the Constitution Article 1 Section 8 that they are responsible for accomplishing. A government shut down clearly indicates that they are not meeting their Constitutional requirements--one of the most important being to "provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States."

All is not lost--the Congress still has about 18 hours to avert insanity--but it is looking pretty bleak.

And who suffers most for the madness occurring in Washington, DC?

Every American.

Yeah--federal workers get hammered first and most noticeably by furloughs--but tomorrow's Cherry Blossom parade will be canceled, the Smithsonian Institution's gallerys will be closed, national parks also will be closed. And every American who is on Spring Break and spending money on vacation--will also feel the initial impacts of the madness.

But wait, there's more.

There is talk that the Air Traffic Controllers may not be able to work. And what about our favorite travel agency, TSA?

Our government is everywhere and an integral part of our lives in ways we do not even remember: meat inspectors, agricultural inspectors, customs, the IRS, Social Security, and the list goes on and on.

Then consider the loss of value for the dollar on world markets which, will drive the already too high price of oil up even higher sending gas prices at the pump well into the $4 per gallon range.

And prices for imports go up at exactly the same time that they cannot be inspected and brought into the country.

We, people, have lost.

Our representatives are acting irresponsibly--something we need to remember during election season.

Until then--it is going to be a bumpy ride.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Consensus Wine Update--Gold Medal Awarded

I wrote a while ago about the Consensus wine from Keswick Vineyards that Chris and I were able to blend last December.

Well, interestingly enough, the story does not end there.

Turns out, the vineyard entered the Consensus into the recent Finger Lakes International Wine Competition a couple weeks ago.

The wine won a Gold Medal!

I mean, I thought it was good--but I was pretty sure I thought it was good because I had a hand in coming up with the blend.

Not so--it really is good!

We received the following congratulatory note in an email from the vineyard the other day:

Congratulations Robert and Christina!
KESWICK ConsensFt AD113025We really do have the best wine club members out there!  Congratulations to all of our members! Your winning Consensus blend from last December was entered into The Finger Lakes International Wine Competition and took home a gold.  We couldn't be more proud of it or of you!

If you live in a state where you are lucky enough to be able to have wine shipped to you--I can recommend this wine. Also--the Cabernet Franc, which I tasted at the winery a couple weekends ago is also fabulous--and it won a Gold Medal in the 2011 Virginia Governor's Cup.

The experience of going to the vineyard and creating the wine back in December and watching it as it went through blending, aging, bottling, release and now has become a Gold Medal winner is one that I probably will never be able to repeat--but for me, it truly has brought me to closer to understanding some of the complexities involved in wine making and has been an experience to remember.

Sadly, there were only a limited number of cases produces and I am sure the wine will soon be nothing more than a fond memory--but if I can resist the temptation to drink it all, and save some for a couple of years--this wine will only get better with a little bit of age.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Thunderstorms and Clearing Skies

Yesterday morning, I drove to the club just after a fairly ferocious thunderstorm had passed through the neighborhood. The winds whipped around and the rain fell in buckets--a true springtime storm.

By the time I arrived at the club for my morning dose of racquetball, the rains had stopped and the smells of springtime were again beginning to fill the air.

The smell of newly mounded mulch and decaying plant matter--those earthy, rich odors which make me feel so close to nature, graced my olfactory senses.

As I was coming out of the club after a grueling match, I noted the gathering dawn against the low hanging clouds and the clear air. The rain had stopped, and while the temperatures were still in the 60's, the forecast was calling for a cooling trend. It was in the mid-40's at noon yesterday. And 36 degrees this morning. That is a 25 degree change since yesterday morning--and not for the better!

Monday's warmth was taste of what is to come--just to make us appreciate it that much more. On the other hand, the daffodils and the hyacinths are loving the cool temperatures and are blooming on and on.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

O's and Rolling Along

April 4, 2011 Opening Day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards
We are only four games into the 2011 baseball season and already O's fans are loving it. The O's are 4-0, tying their 1997 start and bringing back visions of the World Series winning team of 1970 when they started 5-0 with a series sweep on the road against Cleveland and then won 2 of 3 against the Detroit Tigers at home during the second series of the year.

Now in 2011, the O's are playing the Detroit Tigers at home for the second series of the year. They started the season by sweeping Tampa on the road.

Isn't baseball great. After only four games of a 162 game season, O's fans are already drawing comparisons to the history making World Series champion teams of the past.

Yesterday at the park, it was a sea of orange and black such as I have not seen in a long time. The crowd was electric and the players responded with a crisp 5-1 win, highlighted by Brian Roberts second three-run homer of the year.

The day was glorious and warm. The skies were fair and the fan base made a rare sold-out stadium appearance.

I have attended a lot of games over the past years where sometimes there are more opposition fans than Orioles fans--but not today. I actually spied only one Tiger fan and of course there was a Yankee fan wearing his team's colors and I wondered if he took a wrong turn on I-95 on his way to NYC.

But it was the Orioles and their young pitching staff that stole the show. Hanging on until the offense came around and holding the opposition to only one run, for the fourth time.

And ESPN still will not even acknowledge that the Orioles exist.  It is a credibility deep hole that they are crawling out of.  Game by game.

I love baseball--win or lose and everyone knows that I have been a staunch Orioles fan through every one of the 13 consecutive losing seasons--but this year there is at least hope.

I was astounded when the team was introduced at the size of the cheers for the manager--Buck Showalter. I wonder how many managers get that kind of reception during the opening day introductions. But, Buck has so far turned this team around. They have a solid winning record since he took over last August.

The hopes of all true Orioles fans are rising every day.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Any questions?

Opening Day 2011 Scoreboard in Center Field
High 70's and the crowd is streaming in. It is an awesome afternoon in Charm City.

Spirits are high as the Orioles open the home part of the season against the Detroit Tigers.

From the Frontlines on Opening Day

In front of Pickle's Bar on Russell Street in Baltimore on April 4, 2011
 It is here. The 3-0 Orioles are coming home today atop the AL East. This is the crowd two hours before game-time outside the stadium.

The day is almost hot--and it is early April.

The beer is flowing freely and there is a celebration atmosphere in the crowd, almost as if something special is about to happen--the likes of which we have not seen since 1997.

Monday Musings - April 4, 2011

1. Home Opening Day for the undefeated and alone atop the American East Division Orioles and the weather forecast has changed from low 50's and rain to upper 70's and fantastic! What a great way to start the season. Reality will likely set in sometime soon--but it is fun to enjoy the ride while we can. The last time the Orioles started a season with a three-game sweep, was 1997, when they started 4-0 and led the American League East every day from Opening Day until the end of the season.

2. Heard in church yesterday: When you were born, everyone else cheered while you cried. Live your life so that when you die everyone else will cry while you cheer.

3. There is something really therapeutic about getting my hands covered with dirt while planting and cleaning the gardens. It reconnects me with my roots and with the earth. Springtime is such a season of hope and planning.

4. Also heard in church yesterday: If we don't cry over the people we lose, maybe we never really loved them.

5. About the protests and killings of UN workers in Afghanistan. Can the church in Florida that burned the Koran be charged with murder? It has been reported that 21 people have been killed as a result of their Constitutionally-protected but irresponsible action.

6. We had an impressive thunder storm last evening as we went to bed--the sky was lit with lightening on numerous occasions as the skies watered the plants we had planted earlier in the day. Springtime is definitely upon us.

7. And so another week begins--the first full week of April--wow, the year sure is slipping by at a fantastic rate. Just yesterday, it seems, it was new Year's morning.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Projects and Saturdays

We have a project list.

A list of 20 (well now 19) items to work off when we have a chance.

The idea is that when we have time--or need something to do, we will go to one of the items on the list and complete it. Yesterday, we cleaned out a closet and installed a rack to hold wine. So we have a true wine cellar, so to speak.

It was a project.

Some are not so simple--like crown molding in a couple of rooms.

But it is a plan.

There are so many things to do around here it seems. It will be hard to keep up with them all. And of course there is the expense of funding some of the projects.

But we have a plan--and it keeps us busy in our spare time.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Basking in the Glow of a Win

Baseball season is officially underway for the O's. I always love this time of the season when i can call them the AL East Division leaders. Yeah, they're tied with the Yankees and the Blue Jays with one win each--but it still sounds good.

I had a good evening out at a local establishment with Jeremy, Mike and few other friends watching the game, eating some munchies and of course drinking some beer.

Baseball brings us together, it seems. It gives us something to cheer for, talk about and commiserate about when they fall short. 

And dream about being in the World Series or the playoffs?

Maybe not this year. But we are expecting a winning season to break the 13 years 

I have my tickets for the home opener on Monday and am looking forward to partying with 40,000 of my closest friends in person. The weatherman is even helping--we are now looking at 75 degrees and only light showers possible, up form low 50's and heavy rain.

The sun will be shining though at 2:30 pm as the 2011 Orioles are introduced to the home crowd.


The promise is still alive as the just underway baseball season gets off to a start. One down and only 161 to go.

Friday, April 1, 2011

I-95 at Rush Hour

Can you believe it. Five lanes wide and no where to go. Ugh. Friday night on the highway is so much fun.

Baseball, Summertime, and Sitting in the Freezing Rain

Since the O's have not yet opened the season--and they are playing their first three games in Tampa starting tonight, this scenario shouldn't be a concern. But--Monday is coming.

Opening Day, is slated to be mid-50's, rainy, gloomy. But the sun will be shining bright in the hearts of true Orioles fans as the 2011 version of the team takes the field.

I am lucky, in that I have already actually seen two games, albeit Spring Training, sitting in 80 degree weather and sunshine.  So I can carry a bit of that mindset into the stands on Monday as the home part of the season begins. 

I hope they have a winning record when they get back north from Tampa. 3-0 would be great, but 2-1 is awesome too.

We need a good start to the season to set the tone.

So Monday afternoon, I expect to be in Oriole Park at Camden Yards watching the birds begin another season. I will be filled with hope, as I always am on Opening Day--but most of all, despite the anticipated cool temperatures and rain, I will be sitting there in a heavy coat and gloves thinking about July--and pennant races and just glad that baseball is back.
My Zimbio
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